| The print depicts the town plaza in San Diego, Texas, 1876. South Texas Museum Collection, Special Collections & Archives, Mary & Jeff Bell Library, Texas A & M University-Corpus Christi.|
As Moses indicated in his early history, the San Diego and other creeks were a good supply of water for herds of wild horses and cattle that grazed on their banks. In addition to the water supply for livestock, the creeks were edged by groves of elm, ash, live oak, hackberry, and mesquite trees. Travelers also took advantage of the water and cover provided by these small watering holes.
The Ranchero newspaper in Corpus Christi reported there were “a number of large stock raising establishments called ranchos…all prosperous” with water wells and tanks. The newspaper, in an uncanny prophetic observation, noted that the area was “good sheep raising country” and that “possible that valuable minerals may exist in…Duval County.”
Clear roads crisscrossed the county to a number of trading spots on the Rio Grande, including Eagle Pass, Rio Grande City, Guerrero, Mier, and Laredo. Carretas from the Mexican interior laden with wool and other merchandise also crisscrossed the area to Corpus Christi and back to the Rio Grande.
The first census of Duval County taken in 1860 indicated that a town most definitely existed in San Diego. The census for that year counted 225 people living in San Diego and another 49 in nearby Agua Poquita. It also, noted that the post office was at Banquete.
There were 64 native Texans, all Mexican Americans, and most of them infants. There were 150 Mexico natives and one New Yorker, Edward Gray. He and his wife Rosita had five children.
The wealthiest man in town was man named Perez, his first name is not discernible but looks like “Lopez.” Perez was worth $10,828, including $6,928 in land and $3,900 in personal property, most likely livestock. Trinidad Flores was worth $7,828, divided almost equally between land and livestock. Gray, Antonio Garcia, Juan Saenz, a man name Pena, and Benito Ramirez were among the other stock raisers in San Diego. There were also 14 herdsman, 18 laborers, three shoemakers, a fiddler (Ignacio Baldera), a tailor (Desidorio Sanchez), a carpenter (Francisco Bazan?), 12 servants, and nine shepherds.
The population apparently enticed John Levy, who had a store in Banquete, to open a second store in “Rancho San Diego” and carried “all articles usually found in a Texas store.”
In August, Gray was elected Justice of the Peace for Precinct 9 in Nueces County. The Nueces County Commissioners Court also established voting precincts in San Diego, Rancho de Los Angeles in Encinal County, and at Fort Ewell. “Within this area were some of the largest ranchos and compact settlements of our fellow Mexican citizens,” The Ranchero reported. The new precincts doubled the eligible voters in Nueces County.
This act of the Nueces County Commissioners Court led to the first election ever held in Duval County, and it clearly foretold things to come.
(Note: The blogs for the next month or so will focus on this important election and other events that took place in 1860, one of the most notable years in the county’s history.)